Up to eight athletes from the Outer Hebrides will benefit from new funding grants set up to help cover their additional travel costs compared to mainland-based athletes.

Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Sport, visited the Clickimin Sports Centre in Lerwick, Shetland yesterday (Friday February 2) to announce the establishment of a £45,000 3 year pilot fund to help island athletes.

The new initiative will provide funding to help athletes from Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles travel to competitions.

Up to eight athletes from each local authority will benefit from the support, with up to £1500 available per athlete each year of the three years of the pilot.

Funding has come from the Scottish Government, National Lottery, Sportscotland and the island authorities.

The scheme opens this month and it is for each council to identify athletes for support.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan says: “Athletes from the islands face significant geographical barriers in order to compete with their mainland peers. Issues such as ferry timetables and joined up transport links on the mainland can make a huge difference, but the most obvious barrier is cost.

“That’s why I am delighted that the Scottish Government, along with the National Lottery, Sportscotland and the island local authorities, have made this money available so that up to 8 athletes from the Western Isles will get additional support to travel to competitions on the mainland.

“The Western Isles have been blessed with outstanding competitors who have distinguished themselves and done us proud at events like the Island Games.

“I hope this will help the next generation of athletes to reach their full sporting potential.”  

Last June Humza Yousaf, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, told MSPs: “I will give some detail on the discussions that have taken place over the last two years. Sportscotland has been having conversations with COSLA and the three island authorities, including Shetland.

“Those discussions resulted in agreement at the Highlands and Islands regional sporting partnership meeting in August 2016 of a programme that builds on sportscotland’s current provision to the islands through its local performance development programme and the sportscotland institute of sport network.

“In particular, I can confirm that sportscotland has been discussing with the relevant local authorities the development of a programme targeted at supporting travel costs for identified performance or performance development athletes from the Highlands and Islands to assist with travel costs for an agreed training and competition schedule. Finance from sportscotland has been identified for the scheme. Once the scheme is finalised, it will contribute to performance targets as identified by the local authorities within their respective sport strategies.”